On the train back from visiting my cousin, the Dutch countryside whirs by and I marvel at how much- even after decades of living abroad- this feels like home.

Home is a funny word. It describes a place but also a feeling. I have often felt less than at home- no matter where I was.

There was a time I didn’t feel at home with my cousin.  But that couldn’t be more different now. Being with her these last few days has truly felt like returning home- to childhood, to family, to my self.

I think about all the other people and places that allow me that sense of being at home.  
A clear voice inside tells me “I am home anywhere, everywhere I am allowed to be myself.”

A similar feeling of being home came over me when my childhood friend Porter came to stay.  Granted, I was literally, physically at home- but somehow having Porter there gave my cozy cottage an even deeper dimension of being home.

I have a few other places and people with whom I feel truly at home.
It’s only a small handful but even that I realize is an enormous gift. I recognize some people don’t feel truly at home anywhere.

The gift I experience in these spaces, with these special people, is the permission to show up exactly as I am.  They allow me to share the fullness of my experience.  The good.  The bad.  And, yes, the ugly.

I can be honest about who I am.  And who I am not. 

But I can also be honest with my feelings about them and my relationship with them.  And they with me, even the hard ones.

Because there is a sort of safety- an understood- and sometimes explicitly stated: ‘I see you and, without needing you to be perfect, accept and love you.  Just as you are.  Without taking your hard parts personally.  Without seeing your strengths or your love for me as some sort of obligatory, contractual validation that I, too, am good enough.

These relationships are not transactional, they are not conditional.  They are open and honest and accepting and brave.

What, I ask myself, is it that creates space for this honesty we share? I think the most liberating and essential of elements is losing the fear of rejection when something is hard between us, or about me. It is the trust that we, that I, will be ok. No matter what.

This trust, this faith, I believe, is the direct result of each of us having looked ourselves squarely in the eye, the result of our having wrestled with the demons within- those haunting voices that told us we weren’t enough, we needed to be more, do more, the voices that told us we were too small, too messy, too needy.  That voice in me constantly compared and the critical refrain was always that I was smaller, less than, all at once too much and not enough.

When that voice was at its loudest I believed I had to hide my true self because she would disappoint and frustrate people- the inevitable outcome would, of course, lead people to turn away.

The safety created in my most honest relationships was able to take root only after we each discovered within ourselves a more powerful voice with which to yell back at our inner critics. ‘Stop🛑.  Enough. Your efforts to protect me hurt me more than help. I won’t listen anymore!’ It was through learning to be gentle, accepting and honest with ourselves that we were truly able to give each other the grace and safe space to be fully honest with each other, to show up whole.

Having done the excavation necessary to rediscover myself, I recognize that it is far too costly to bury myself again all for the sake of avoiding loneliness and gaining acceptance.  I have made the choice to show up honestly as me and risk rejection. It is a commitment to my Self from which I will not, can not, waver.

It started with being earnestly, deeply, bravely honest with my self.   And then forgiving myself for being human.  For making mistakes and being messy and, more often than I’d like, falling short of my values and ideals. After years of self-critique it wasn’t easy.

But doing so allowed me to begin to accept myself and eventually even love myself enough to show myself to others as I was.  I hoped for acceptance but trusted that I could also withstand rejection without fear of losing my self. I now know, no matter what else, that I will be comfortable remaining true to me.

There were, of course, the  people who pushed back, people who tried to influence me to behave differently. There will always be people who will not- or maybe do not-  like what they see. 

But I have also found the welcoming and open arms of my compatriots on this journey- my cousin, my childhood friend, my adult friends with whom I raised my children, my husband with whom I have built my life.  

This positive regard, love, and acceptance is something I feel to be rare and precious.  It is, for me, the greatest gift I can give or receive from another.

When, rather than being rejected, I was loved and accepted by the very people that I love and respect most, it created space for me to push the boundaries even further. Each day I dare to reveal a little more of me to myself.  And also to those who choose to share this journey with me.  

The honest relationships we have developed have reinforced the honest relationship I have been developing with myself. And in seeing myself more clearly, more fully, I can see myself in others. I can see how, in the end, we truly are all the same.

Because of the generosity of those who love me, accept me, and share themselves honestly with me, I have been able to continue growing into my true Self. Perhaps even more importantly, I have grown into a more compassionate, understanding, accepting and heart-centered Self. 

This is the Me that I can now offer others. It is a Me that is more aligned with my values and my highest needs.  It is a Me I feel good to offer others so that they, too, can feel safe being honest about who they are should they choose to bravely share their truth with me. I can only hope they will.🙏

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